Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

San Joaquin County workers strike
By Team Staff, July 5, 2016, ABC 10
The San Joaquin County workers union began their strike with a press conference and rally at the County Administration at noon Tuesday, July 5. Instead of reporting to work Tuesday morning, nearly 4,400 San Joaquin County workers — represented by SEIU 1021 — grabbed picket signs and shut down all County operations. They walked out on behalf of an Unfair Labor Practice strike, a method of protest that California labor law grants employees whose employer has violated the rules of collective bargaining. (read article)

Supreme Court term mixed bag for health care industry
By Lisa Shencker, July 5, 2016, Crain’s Chicago Business
Last year, healthcare leaders had their eyes trained on one big case – King v. Burwell – and they celebrated when the justices voted to uphold a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. This year wasn’t nearly so straightforward for healthcare leaders watching the Supreme Court, which wrapped up its latest term last week. At least half a dozen notable cases fragmented healthcare wonks’ attention. The outcomes of those cases left some in the industry cheering and others wringing their hands. Healthcare-related cases focused on abortion, the ACA’s contraception mandate, patents, unions, claims data and the False Claims Act, among other topics. And the mid-term death of Justice Antonin Scalia looks to have affected the outcomes of some of those cases. (read article)

Clinton’s charter school comments prompt boos at teachers union event
By Kimberly Hefling, July 5, 2016, Politico
Hillary Clinton on Tuesday said traditional public schools and charter schools should share ideas — a remark met with boos by delegates from the National Education Association’s representative assembly. To the thousands of teachers gathered at the labor union’s annual conference, Clinton said “when schools get it right, whether they are traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working … and share it with schools across America.” Some teachers in the audience booed. Clinton continued to preach cooperation. “We can do that,” she said. “We’ve got no time for all of these education wars.” (read article)

Clinton snags AFL-CIO official, former Sanders staffer, in labor outreach
By Amanda Becker, July 5, 2016, Reuters
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has hired two people with close ties to U.S. organized labor to try to lock down support from union members as Republican candidate Donald Trump makes courting working-class voters central to his campaign. The two new staffers, Lori D’Orazio and Michele Gilliam, are to be deputy labor campaign directors, according to a campaign aide. D’Orazio is moving to the campaign from the biggest U.S. labor federation, the AFL-CIO. Gilliam is a former staffer for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who was Clinton’s fiercest primary competitor. (read article)

Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric rattles the campaign message of Clinton and unions
By David Nakamura & David Weigel, July 4, 2016, Washington Examiner
Three dozen union workers gathered outside city hall here on Thursday to rally against the global free-trade deals they believe have harmed Americans like them. Their candidate was Katie McGinty, the Democrats’ nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania. But their spiritual leader was Republican Donald Trump.“He recognized there’s some problems we need to solve,” said McGinty, who is challenging Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R), a free-trade advocate. “One, we have to stop bad trade agreements. . . . And two, we have to take the Chinese on when they manipulate their currency and dump goods in our markets.” Just two days earlier, Trump had delivered a blistering speech at an aluminum recycling plant near Pittsburgh in which he called U.S. trade policies a ­“politician-made disaster” that has betrayed the working class. (read article)

Teachers Unions Defeat Education Reform in California — Again
By Susan Berry, June 30, 2016, Breitbart News
This week, California teachers unions defeated a bill that attempted to address the process by which teachers are retained and fired in the state. Assembly Bill 934, introduced by former teacher Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Cncord), fell short of the five votes needed for approval to pass out of committee. The measure, in its original form, would have provided school officials with more time to assess less competent teachers prior to giving them full job protections, or tenure. The legislation would have also accelerated the termination process for teachers who were referred for professional support to improve their skills, yet failed to do so. (read article)

California bullet train, Delta tunnels: Jerry Brown’s pet projects face threat from ballot measure
By Paul Rogers, June 30, 2016, Mercury News
Two of Gov. Jerry Brown’s favorite projects — building a high-speed rail system and a pair of massive tunnels under the Delta — face a serious threat if California voters pass a measure heading for the November ballot. The “No Blank Checks Initiative,” bankrolled with $4.5 million from Stockton farmer and businessman Dean Cortopassi, would require a public vote on any state project in which $2 billion or more in revenue bonds would be issued. And since both the bullet train and twin-tunnels projects would most likely require that kind of financing, voters could ultimately get a chance to decide their fate. Although it has received less attention than many of the others, Cortopassi’s measure could be the most significant in the long term and have a huge impact on the governor’s legacy. It’s also setting up a major battle involving taxpayer groups on one side and labor unions and business organizations on the other. (read article)

UPS, pilots union reach tentative deal on five-year labor contract
By Chris Otts, June 30, 2016, WDRB
After more than two years of mediation, UPS Airlines and its pilot union have reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year labor contract. UPS and the Independent Pilots Association announced the agreement in a press release Thursday. They did disclose the specifics of the contract, which needs to be ratified by a majority vote of the pilots union’s 2,600 members. “The comprehensive agreement provides for improvements across all sections of the contract,” the parties said in the release.  The union’s last contract with UPS ran through Dec. 31, 2011 and the two sides had been trying to reach a new labor agreement since. In March 2014, the talks moved to mediation before the National Mediation Board, a U.S. government agency. Sticking points included wages, healthcare, pensions and flight scheduling, among other issues. (read article)

Christen: Project Labor Agreements are bad for Santa Clara County taxpayers
By Eric Christen, June 29, 2016, Mercury News
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors once again has voted to require all construction contractors, workers and apprentices to effectively be union in order to work on county financed projects. They did this by mandating that a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) be “agreed” to with trade unions as a condition of building county funded projects. The supervisors approved a PLA policy for contracts $10 million and above five years ago but in June voted to lower that threshold to $2 million. Apparently, too many projects are still getting built by nonunion labor, so big labor special-interests demanded the supervisors just give them a monopoly on everything. (read article)

Historic Agreement Paves Way for Alliance Between Labor and Environmentalists
By Tom Dalzell, June 29, 2016, Huffington Post 
For too long, the interests of labor and environmental groups have cleaved through the Democratic Party. The transition to clean energy has stressed this relationship further: as carbon-based sources of power come under fire, the union jobs that go along with them (workers at power plants) are being replaced by low-wage, non-union positions (think solar panel installers, who frequently make minimum wage). This trend has contributed to the hollowing out of the middle class, and has been watched with unease by those concerned with income inequality. That’s why last week’s agreement to phase out the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant – and take care of the workers there – is historic. It provides a new model for labor and environmentalists – one that provides green power without tossing aside middle-class jobs. (read article)

Labor Watch: ‘Release Time’ Forces Taxpayers to Pay for Union Work: In effect, you’re paying union dues when you pay your taxes
By CRC Staff, June 29, 2016, Capital Research Center
A case argued recently before the U.S. Supreme Court threw a spotlight on one of the worst abuses committed by government-employee unions and their allies: the practice of union officials charging taxpayers for time they spend on union business. Justice Antonin Scalia was expected to provide the crucial fifth vote for plaintiffs in the case. After Scalia’s death in February, the vote was tied at 4 to 4, which leaves the lower court’s pro-union/anti-worker ruling in effect. Unions had prepared for the expected loss by putting money aside. Now that money can be used to get pro-union politicians elected in 2016 and beyond. In These Times, a socialist/union publication, reported that “the ‘rainy day’ savings that many unions made in anticipation of an adverse decision can now be used as a ‘Scalia Dividend’ to be invested in new campaigns.” (read article)

California judge blocks move to cap hospital executive pay
By Barrett Newkirk, June 29, 2016, The Desert Sun
A state judge has blocked a labor union’s effort for a ballot initiative asking California voters to cap hospital executive pay at $450,000. Sacramento Superior Court Judge David Brown sided with the California Hospital Association when he ruled June 23 that SEIU United Healthcare Workers West’s support for the measure violated an agreement between the union and hospital association. The SEIU in May submitted nearly 650,000 signatures to the California Secretary of State’s Office with the hope of getting the question before voters in November. If approved, the measure would have forbid California hospitals from paying top executives more than $450,000, the same annual salary as the president of the United States. (read article)

Teachers Union and Hedge Funds War Over Pension Billions
By Brody Mullin, June 28, 2016, The Wall Street Journal
Daniel Loeb, Paul Singer and dozens of other hedge-fund managers have poured millions of dollars into promoting charter schools in New York City and into groups that want to revamp pension plans for government workers, including teachers. The leader of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, sees some of the proposals, in particular the pension issue, as an attack on teachers. She also has influence over more than $1 trillion in public-teacher pension plans, many of which traditionally invest in hedge funds. It is a recipe for a battle for the ages. Ms. Weingarten started by targeting hedge-fund managers she deemed a threat to teachers and urged unions to yank money from their funds. Then she moved to Wall Street as a whole. Her union federation is funding a lobbying campaign to eliminate the “carried-interest” tax rate on investment income earned by many money managers. (read article)

Supreme Court denies rehearing to major union case
By Sean Higgins, June 28, 2016, Washington Examiner
The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied the plaintiffs in the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association a rehearing, ending the possibly that the court will re-examine whether public sector unions should have the right to force payment from workers who do not wish to be members. The case had once been one of the most high-profile of the Supreme Court’s current term, with many legal observers thinking it could fundamentally rewrite labor law, weakening unions in the process. Instead, the court announced in April it was deadlocked, 4-4, in the case. That meant a lower court ruling upholding current law allowing unions to demand the fees would stand. (read article)

Labor unions file lawsuit challenging ‘right-to-work’ law
By Associative Press, June 28, 2016, Herald-Dispatch
Labor unions from around the state have filed petitions in Kanawha Circuit Court challenging West Virginia’s new “right-to-work” law as an illegal taking of union property and resources. The lawsuit, filed Monday by 11 unions, contends that the Workplace Freedom Act is intended to discourage union membership by “enabling nonmembers of unions to get union services for free,” reported the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports. The law was vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. However, it was enacted into law by override votes in the House of Delegates. The legislation allows employees in union shops to opt out of paying union dues. One intent of the law, according to the lawsuit, is to discourage employees from joining unions. (read article)


Union In The News – Weekly Highlights

Does California shutdown mean the end of nuclear power? Not so fast.
By Jessica Mendoza, June 28, 2016, Christian Science Monitor
When California’s largest electric utility announced last week that it would close the state’s last operational nuclear power plant, supporters were quick to call the moment a potential game changer for America’s energy future. And the move, in which state regulators nudged Pacific Gas & Electric Co. toward a plan to close its Diablo Canyon reactor, comes as other states have also been closing nuclear plants or planning to do so. Solar and wind power are surging, and PG&E said the Diablo Canyon power will be replaced by renewables. Some new reactors are being built. Some governors even in other politically liberal states are trying to save old reactors rather than scrap them. And though cheap natural gas may have called the economics of nuclear plants into question, environmentalists are divided over whether a nuclear phaseout would be wise. (read article)

‘Labor Unions Now Play a Particularly Boutique Role in the Economy’
By Elizabeth Nolan Brown, June 28, 2016, Reason (blog)
As president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) from 1996-2010, Andy Stern was called “the nation’s most politically influential union president.” Now Stern believes that labor unions are increasingly irrelevant. “Labor unions now play a particularly boutique role in the economy,” he told The Atlantic. “I believe that this is not our father’s or our grandfather’s economy, that the 21st century will not be employer-managed,” Stern said. “It’s going to be self-managed, because the growth in alternative work relationships—contingent, freelance, gig, whatever you want to call it—is clearly going to increase. Stern left traditional labor organizing because he “could not figure out anymore how a shrinking labor movement, a changing economy, a changing structure of work” could lead to economic security for Americans. (read article)

Justices reject request to rehear union case that tied 4-4
By Associated Press, June 28, 2016, The Denver Post
The Supreme Court has turned down a long-shot request to hold new arguments in a major labor union case that ended in a 4-4 tie. The justices on Tuesday denied without comment a petition from a group of California teachers urging the court to reconsider the case once a new justice is confirmed. The court almost never rehears cases. It would have taken five justices to agree to a rehearing. The tie vote in March was a victory for unions in a case they once seemed all but certain to lose before Justice Antonin Scalia died in February. (read article)

Labor unions file lawsuit challenging ‘right-to-work’ law
By Associated Press, June 28, 2016, Huntington Herald Dispatch
Labor unions from around the state have filed petitions in Kanawha Circuit Court challenging West Virginia’s new “right-to-work” law as an illegal taking of union property and resources. The lawsuit, filed Monday by 11 unions, contends that the Workplace Freedom Act is intended to discourage union membership by “enabling nonmembers of unions to get union services for free,” reported the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports. The petition cites other issues with the right-to-work law, including a definitions section that seems to limit the law to public employee unions. Some predict that the case will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court, including Josh Sword, secretary of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, one of the plaintiffs. (read article)

Assemblywoman Bonilla, a former teacher, takes on the powerful union
By George Skelton, June 27, 2016, Los Angeles Times
School reformers keep suffering setbacks in California — first in court, now in the Legislature. In Sacramento, the California Teachers Assn. — arguably the most powerful labor union in the state — is practically unbeatable because of its ability to spend millions supporting or opposing a legislative candidate. It’s an intimidating force. Reformers — those trying to make it easier to fire bad teachers and retain good ones — were jubilant when a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in 2014 threw out tenure and other job protections.  But in April, a state appeals court agreed with the CTA and threw out the lower court ruling. Meanwhile, in the Legislature, a former high school English teacher introduced a bill that included many of the provisions sought by Students Matter and the Vergara plaintiffs. Last week, however, the measure was substantially watered down by the author, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), under pressure from the teachers union. She had no choice if any of her proposal was to survive. In its original form, the measure would have reduced the importance of teacher seniority in layoffs. (read article)

The Case for Unions to Support a Universal Basic Income
By Bourree Lam, June 27, 2016, The Atlantic
Andy Stern has been part of the U.S. labor movement for decades. He was formerly the president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly 2 million American workers. During his tenure at the SEIU, he was hailed as “the nation’s most politically influential union president,” which made his resignation in 2010 something of a surprise. Stern’s new book, Raising the Floor, details his views on the changing nature of work in America and explains why Stern has come around to supporting a universal basic income—an idea that has gained a lot of traction in the past year when it comes to media coverage, policy debates, and efforts to study its efficacy. (read article)

MBTA union may agree to wage cuts for new worker
By Nicole Dungca, June 27, 2016, The Boston Globe
The leader of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s largest union said Monday the labor group would be willing to agree to pay cuts for new workers this coming year and lower raises in the future, as part of a deal that would stop the T from privatizing a number of jobs. As the MBTA grapples with an $80 million deficit for the 2017 fiscal year, the agency is pursuing privatization and voluntary retirement and separation packages, while considering possible future layoffs. But Carmen’s Union officials say they’re willing to agree to lower future raises and other concessions —which would add up to about $24 million over the next four years — to make sure many jobs aren’t outsourced. (read article)

Big labor breaks its promise to California taxpayers
By Michael Saltsman, June 26, 2016, OC Register
The people of California were told that a $15 minimum wage was not just a boost for employees – it was good for taxpayers, too. It’s a promise that the “Fight for $15” has carried across the country. David Rolf, one of the architects of the campaign, said explicitly in his book of the same name that a $15 minimum wage “would substantially reduce dependence on government welfare programs.” With the ink barely dry on California’s groundbreaking law, the credibility of this talking point is already crumbling. The popular labor argument goes something like this: Employers who fail to pay higher starting wages force their employees to rely on public assistance. Last year, San Diego State University economists examined 35 years of data and found that minimum wage increases cause no net reduction in participation in (or spending on) social welfare programs. (read article)

Rail unions fail to extend NJ Transit strike deadline
By Larry Higgs, June 24, 2016,
Unions representing NJ Transit locomotive engineers and conductors as for Friday evening failed to extend a strike deadline to mid-July, putting commuters under the threat of losing rail service by June 30. The National Mediation Board, which supervises railroad labor negotiations, asked the agency and two rail unions on Tuesday to extend their no strike/no lockout pledge until July 16. NJ Transit had earlier agreed to the deadline. “The unions representing locomotive engineers and conductors have ignored NJ Transit’s agreement to extend their ‘cooling off period’ until July 16,” said Nancy Snyder, an NJ Transit spokeswoman. If there is no agreement and a strike or lock-out occurs, Congress could impose its own settlement under Federal Railway Labor law. Such a settlement would be proposed as a bill. (read article)

Supreme Court Delivers Bad News For Union Hoping To Bag Illegals
By Connor D. Wolf, June 23, Daily Caller
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against an executive order granting citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants Thursday in what is likely a major blow to union membership. Labor unions have been suffering a sharp decline in membership for decades. President Barack Obama signed a 2014 executive order opening the door to millions of new potential union members. The Supreme Court promptly closed that door by ruling that the president overstepped his authority. Union bosses claim their fight is about helping immigrants get the rights they deserve. Unions have already started to pave the road to get the millions of illegal immigrants into their ranks. They have set up training, workshop and recruitment programs all specifically aimed at the illegal immigrants that may be eligible for amnesty under the executive order. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) leadership also condemned the ruling. (read article)

Sacramento judge moves to cancel a November ballot initiative limiting salaries of hospital CEOs
By John Meyers, June 23, 2016, Los Angeles Times
An effort to cap the salaries of hospital executives may be blocked from California’s Nov. 8 ballot, after a Sacramento judge wrote Thursday that its labor union backers broke a political peace treaty with hospitals. If upheld, Sacramento Superior Court Judge David Brown’s ruling would force Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West to withdraw an initiative that would limit executive compensation at nonprofit hospitals to $450,000 a year. SEIU-UHW turned in almost 650,000 voter signatures on the measure last month , and it’s likely to qualify for the ballot next week. “Unfortunately, the voters of California may be denied their ability to decide whether someone running a charity can make $5 million or $10 million a year,” said SEIU-UHW spokesman Steve Trossman. (read article)

CPS to file labor charge against union over April 1 job action
By Lauren FitzPatrick, June 22, 2016, Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday announced its intention to file an unfair labor charge against the Chicago Teachers Union over its treatment of teachers who did not participate in the union’s one-day job action on April 1. On that day, union members gathered downtown and marched in the streets in protest, calling on CPS, state lawmakers, Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to find long-term funding solutions for public schools. CPS considered that an “illegal one-day strike,” and accuses the union of “forcibly expelling members who exercised their right to refuse to participate.” (read article)

Autoworker Union Accuses Volkswagen Of Violating 2014 Contract 
By Connor D. Wolf, June 21, 2016, Daily Caller
The United Auto Workers (UAW) accused Volkswagen Tuesday of ignoring a commitment it made to organized labor in 2014. UAW and Volkswagen have been in a bitter labor dispute for the last couple of years. Volkswagen was originally open to the idea of its workforce organizing, but opposed the union for trying to split its employees between union and nonunion. The automaker has instead advocated for a full vote of the more than 1,400 plant workers. UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel released a document allegedly showing the automaker ignored a pledge it made in 2014. Volkswagen spokesman Scott Wilson countered the claim by noting the written statement was not a contract. Rather, it was a policy to allow a formal meeting between the automaker and union leadership. (read article)